The Blacktip Island Running Club will host the inaugural underwater 5K fun dive Saturday morning to raise money for charity. (photo courtesy of Summitandbeach)
Race-minded Blacktip Island scuba divers are slated to swim a five-kilometer underwater course around the Caribbean island’s west coast reefs Saturday morning to raise money for charity, race organizers said.
“It’ll be like any other 5K, just underwater,” Blacktip Island Running Club president Val Schrader said. “We figured since most diving guests kick non-stop and cover that much territory every dive anyway, why not turn that to good and raise money for a much-beloved charitable organization?
“Anybody who’s certified is welcome to join in,” Schrader said. “It’s about participating and having fun for most participants. Only a few are actually fast enough to win, and they’ve been training ever since we announced the race last month. All ages are encouraged, and there’ll be awards for the winners of each age division. We’ll even have an under-10 division snorkeling category.”
Organizers said the logistics were more challenging than with a terrestrial race.
“For a road race you just measure out five kilometers on your car’s odometer and call it good,” club member Clete Horn said. “Underwater, though, distance measurement gets trickier. We had a team out with big tape measures plotting out a course around multiple dive sites. And a second team following behind, double-checking their math.
“We also had to steer the course away from coral as much as possible,” Horn said. “We’ve got 5K of dive reel line held up by stakes in the sand, in a meandering loop from Jawfish Reef to Hammerhead Ledge and back again.”
The race will start and end at Diddley’s Landing public pier.
“Racers’ll line up at the pier’s edge, and when we blow the whistle, they’ll all giant stride in at once,” Schrader said. “It’s about a nine-foot drop, so that entry may be the most exciting part of the race.
“We’ll post judges underwater at each turn to make sure no one cuts corners,” Schrader said. “The first diver to climb back up the steps beside the pier will win the coveted Golden Flipper award. Well, we’re pretty sure it’ll be coveted. Eventually.”
Spectators will be able to watch the race from the pier.
“We threw up some scaffolding in case people want a better view, but we’re really not expecting a huge crowd, what with the race starting at seven in the morning,” Port Authority head Rocky Shore said. “We’ll be serving hot coffee and cold bloody Marys for spectators in need, and after-race divers.”
Participants are using a variety of strategies to prepare for the race.
“Lee Helm’s blabbing about greasing himself up, like for an English Channel swim,” Alison Diesel said. “But, knowing Lee, that’s just an excuse to rub Crisco all over himself and wear his Speedo in public.
“Me, I’ve doing wind sprints on every dive this week, covering as many sites as possible,” Diesel said. “My thighs are screaming, but my cardio’s killer. Carb up big time tonight, and I’ll be taking home that Golden Flipper tomorrow.”
Proceeds from the race will go to the Helping Hands Monkey Hands service-animal providers.